It was Lost before Lost. It's Robinson Crusoe without the uncomfortable bits. And it's still funny a half century later. Catapulted to fame just as television was transitioning to color, and made famous by decades of reruns, it is difficult to find a show more emblematic of 1960s nostalgia than Gilligan's Island. This classic show finds 7 people trapped on an uncharted desert isle with nothing but the supplies in their marooned boat and the resources of their new home.
But instead of taking a nose-dive a la Lord of the Flies, the castaways manage to not only survive, but to rise above their baser instincts to form a collaborative society. Of course plenty of the show was unrealistic. The castaways had a huge amount of luggage for the "3 hour tour" they were supposedly on, the bamboo huts somehow withstood a hurricane, and surely Gilligan should have had permanent brain damage from the numerous coconuts that fell on his head. However, this was all part of the fun. Given how grim the concept of 7 people trapped on a island could have been, the show managed to demonstrate, in a very silly way, both the reality of human flaws, and the power of collaboration. With that, let's take a look at 25 facts you probably didn't know about everyone's favorite castaways.
Did You Know . . .
1. The boat trip which stranded the castaways was originally supposed to be a "6-hour ride" rather than a "3 hour tour."
2. The original theme song for Gillgan's Island was twice as long, and a calypso style song.
3. The character of Mary Ann was originally a secretary named Bunny, who bore nearly no resemblance to the final version .
4. Russell Johnson, when auditioning for the role of The Professor, was asked to take off his shirt. Johnson refused to do so, but still got the part.
5. Ginger was not a movie star in the original script, and was also a secretary.
6. The lagoon set was drained and used a parking lot when it was not in use.
7. A skirt worn by Mary Ann was auctioned off for over $20,000 at a Beverly Hills auction house.
8. During the shows first season, the Professor and Mary Ann were left out of the theme song and just referred to as "the rest." Bob Denver managed to get the studio executives to pay for a complete reshooting and rescoring of the theme song in order to make sure Russell Johnson and Dawn Wells received full credit, by threatening to disallow use of his name in the titles of the theme song.
9. The coconut cups the cast drank from were originally made of actual coconuts, but we're replaced when the cups let liquid soak through the shells and looked terrible on camera.
10. Natalie Schafer (Mrs. Howell) was 13 years older than her on screen husband, and refused to tell the cast or producers her real age.
11. The footage of the S.S. Minnow leaving Hawaii shows a flag at half mast on the shore. This is because it was filmed on the day of John F. Kennedy's assassination.
12. The show couldn't be filmed at rush hour because the lagoon set was too close to a freeway, which caused microphones to pick up traffic noises.
13. Special props had to be built for the show, including a pedal powered bamboo car, and a record player made out of the ship's wheel.
14. Tina Louise (Ginger) disagreed extensively with the producers over her portrayal of the character. She later claimed the show ruined her career as a serious actress.
15. The Skipper's real name, Jonas Grumby, is only mentioned twice in the entire series.
16. The Minnow, the shipwrecked vessel that stranded the castaways, was named for the head of the FCC who was disliked by the series creator.
17. The favorite scenes of the cast were dream sequences, a device used to take the castaways off the island.
18. Natalie Schaffer decided to film the pilot because it meant a free trip to Hawaii.
19. Dawn Wells who played Mary Ann was the only cast member who made money from the shows nearly continuous syndication. The others were paid a flat salary.
20. Alan Hale was filming in Utah when he got a call offering him a chance to audition for the role of Skipper. He rode a horse to the highway, the hitchhiked to an airport, where he flew to Hollywood to screen test.
21. The show's cast bought homes in LA because the show was slated to have a 4th season. Gilligan's Island was cancelled at the last minute to make room for the drama Gunsmoke.
22. Although Gilligan's first name is never mentioned, the creator said he liked the name "Willie" for the character
23. The final episode of the series left the castaways on the island, ending the series with a big question mark.
24. The Coast Guard occasionally received letters from people asking for the rescue of Castaways, apparently not realizing the show was a sitcom.
25. When Alan Hale Jr. had cancer, he found out there was a small boy in the hospital who also had cancer, who also loved Gilligan's Island. Alan Hale Jr. dressed up as the Skipper and went to comfort the terminally ill child.
Do you have any memories of Gilligan's Island? Are you a fan? Or can you just not get over the fact that the Professor was so supposed to be SO smart, but he couldn't even build a raft? Leave your Gilligan memories in the comments below.
A Great Deal for any Fan
Ted on August 20, 2019:
S. S. Minnow was named after Sherwood Swartz the producer
Rod M on August 12, 2019:
The beach used for pilot episode is Moloaa Bay in Kauai, and some early episodes, and of course, the theme song just before revealing the cast. The episode where the boat becomes unglued is Zuma Beach in Malibu, California. The island in the last shot of the first season theme song is Sandy Cay, Bahamas, the bigger island in season 2 & 3 is Coconut Island, Oahu. Regarding the end credits of season 1, Gilligan is fishing in Moloaa Bay, this was taken from the unaired pilot, BUT, the rest of the cast is not sitting in the sand in front of the boat at the same beach. They are actually in Zuma Beach Malibu, this scene was pulled from the first episode, TWO ON A RAFT. So the end credits took place on TWO beaches. And the beach in the end credits of season 2 & 3 is the fake lagoon set in Studio City California on the CBS studios lot, Radford. The season one marina is Ala Wai Yacht Club in Honolulu. The season 2 & 3 marina is Alamitos Bay Marina in Long Beach, California. BTW, there were at least 4 Minnows used, possibly 5.
Jason bracket on April 28, 2019:
I dated “ginger” in 71 and she was the perfect lady, never had anything but good to say about people and her @job”... love you “ kushi@
Alton on March 11, 2019:
It took them all to make that show take one away and it wouldn't be the same, they were all great actors I'm glad they were in my childhood,
I watched it every day after school I love the show. It's like it took you away from you're everyday troubles I will say Ginger and Mary Ann I like them both
Gary on September 24, 2018:
My favorite memory of GI is the fact that, having lost my hearing - intirely - when I was ten, I watched the program, after school, with my siblings and, while they heard what was going on, I had to create lines, for myself. In doing so, I, practically, memorized every program.
Four or five years ago, I saw, in the website of Denny Miller, where he said he and Hans Conreid were the only actors, who played multiple guest stars.
I wrote him, explaining that I remembered two others - Vito Scotti was one..I can't think of the other, right now - had also done that. Mr. Miller replied saying someone else had told him that and, without checking it out, he'd included it in his website.
To my knowledge, he never took it down, though.
Because I am still totally Deaf, I was overjoyed, when Ted Turner added captioning. By that time, I was 36 years old but still a kid at heart! I have been totally disabled, by brain surgery, for the past 19 years and I wish GI was on the tube, everyday. I'd also like to contact that two remaining members of the cast, but I am unable to find their email addresses.
Richard l on September 09, 2018:
Mary ann is pretyer than ginger .ginger was a plastic person it was the other chacarters that made ginger look good mary ann was unfairly not listed with the cast i wonder why that was
Debbie Gregoire Lefebvre on August 22, 2016:
I liked the Professor. I became interested in meteorology and chemistry because of Gilligan's Island.
Cheryl Troup on October 14, 2015:
I liked the Skipper best. Then Gilligan. I didn't care for the women much. They whined too much. We have seen Dawn Wells perform in another role in Kansas City and she was very good and likeable.The she was busted for pot. Oh,well...
Paul on September 19, 2015:
Maryann was clearly more beautiful than ginger and clearly was the best one on the show!!!!!!!!
Bill on July 11, 2015:
I may be wrong, but I believe all cast members were named in one very early episode. I do recall Gilligan being named Willie Gilligan during the episode. Along with all the other character names.
sherry on October 31, 2014:
I always watched gilligans island as a kid & still watch it I liked them all its so funny makes me laugh it's sad their all gone now except 4 ginger & MaryAnn
Patrick collura on September 26, 2014:
I loved the show and tina louise
Was ginger sorry the others were poor imitations I meet her in new york many times always gracious.shes my favorite castaway then the professor who signed a pair of pants .tina signed many autographs for me .my license plate used to say minnow2 still have it framed in my gillgan room I was so happy to see them together in 1988 on fox with ross schafer a tribute to the show glad I taped it also thrilled when they got the pop culture award in 2004 .I used to be the east coast representative from the fab club
August Gerard on April 15, 2014:
My first official act of "civic mindedness", was to write a letter to the network when, already in reruns, they stopped broadcasting Gilligan's Island for a season. It was the first thing I sat down to when I got home from school. Had to turn the TV off afterwards.
JJ Tyson (author) from Chapel Hill, NC on March 18, 2014:
Thank you, I changed the caption. =)
gillifan on March 18, 2014:
Is your caption above correct? Isn't that Maryann playing temptress not Ginger?
boilermaker76 on February 15, 2014:
Favorite show as a kid, it was always on Superstation TBS when I got home from school. I'm so glad TVland is showing it in the evenings now. I watch it no matter how many times I've seen them. Much better than those crappy "TVland Original Sitcoms" on Wednesdays.
Serena on February 05, 2014:
I hate to see anyone vote for Ginger. She was such a diva. She was hard to get along with, demanded some scenes be reshot to "show her best side", often made cast members wait until her hair and makeup were just right, refused to admit being Ginger when fans approached her in public, saying she wasn't her, and refused to come back to film the movie Rescue from Gilligan's Island, which was shot to give the fans some closure. She often said the series ruined her career as a "serious actor". What a b****. If you look at pictures of her now, she has turned into the ugly person she has always been on the inside.
smith on February 05, 2014:
I believe the "temptres"s in your photo is not Ginger, it is Mary Ann, look at her height and facial profile.
Ed Cary on February 02, 2014:
Gilligan's island was my favorite show as a kid and is still my favorite show never miss a show even if I've seen it hundreds of times. Loved all the cast especially Gilligan . Thank you for all the info.
JJ Tyson (author) from Chapel Hill, NC on January 24, 2014:
@Gerry: Gunsmoke was going to be cancelled to make room on the schedule, but since it was the CBS president's wife's favorite show, Gilligan's Island was cancelled to make space.
Gerry on January 24, 2014:
I hste to be the bearer of bad news but # 21 is wrong. (The show's cast bought homes in LA because the show was slated to have a 4th season. Gilligans Island was cancelled at the last minute to make room for the drama Gunsmoke). Impossible as Gunsmoke came out long before Gilligan's Island (1955)....Gilligan's Island didn't debut until 1964.
Fierce Manson from Atlanta on November 24, 2012:
Your article sure brought back memories of Gilligan's Island. I loved watching this show as a child. The facts you have listed here are very interesting. Loved the poll of whose your favorite. I had a hard time voting because I liked them all, but voted for Maryann as my favorite. She was so sweet, and innocent. Thanks for a wonderful hub. Voted interesting.
Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on November 24, 2012:
What a great overview of Gilligan's Island. I loved that show. I enjoyed reading through the facts. I voted for Gilligan, but I really like Mrs. Howel too. She and Mr. Howell were so funny!
Liz Rayen from California on November 23, 2012:
This was a fun hub to read. I played Maryann on stage a couple times and had a lot of fun. I had the opportunity to meet Bob Denver when he came to Kauai, HI for the opening of Gilligan's nightclub. Grew up with the show and it is an iconic classic. Thanks for sharing! :) THumbs up and shared.
Shyron E Shenko from Texas on November 23, 2012:
I also loved Gilligan's Island when I was younger. I don't have a favorite, I like them all.
Kris Heeter from Indiana on November 23, 2012:
This had to be my favorite show as a kid. I looked forward to each episode. Thanks for the trivia. After reading it, I can now really appreciate the amazing job of making the lagoon look so remote!
Voted up and sharing:)
Alecia Murphy from Wilmington, North Carolina on November 23, 2012:
I loved Gilligan's Island as a kid. So funny and so irreverent! My favorite's the Professor. He was all about trying to find solutions. I didn't like Ginger at all but she was comic relief. Interesting to know that they only mentioned the Skipper's name twice- didn't think about that until now. Thanks so much for this hub! It brought back great memories :).